The Collected Letters, Volume 11


TC TO RALPH WALDO EMERSON ; 4 September 1839; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18390904-TC-RWE-01; CL 11: 177-180


Scotsbrig, Ecclefechan, 4th Septr, 1839—

Dear Emerson,

A cheerful and right welcome Letter of yours, dated 4th July, reached me here, duly forwarded, some three weeks ago; I delayed answering till there could some definite statement, as to bales of literature shipped or landed, or other matter of business forwarded a stage, be made. I am here, with my Wife, rusticating again, these two months; amid diluvian rains, chartism, Teetotalism, deficient harvest, and general complaint and confusion; which not being able to mend, all that I can do is to heed them as little as possible. “What care I for the house? I am only a lodger.”1 On the whole, I have sat under the wing of Saint Swithin; uncheery, sluggish, murky, as the wettest of his Days;2—hoping always nevertheless that blue sky, figurative and real, does exist, and will demonstrate itself by and by. I have been the stupidest and laziest of men. I could not write even to you, till some palpable call told me I must.

Yesternight however there arrives a despatch from Fraser, apprising me that the American Miscellanies, second cargo, are announced from Portsmouth, and “will probably be in the River tomorrow”; where accordingly they in all likelihood now are, a fair landing and good welcome to them! Fraser “knows not whether they are bound or not”; but will soon know. The first cargo, of which I have a specimen here, contented him extremely; only there was one fatality, the cloth of the binding was multiplex, party-coloured, some sets done in green, others in red, blue, perhaps skyblue! Now if the second cargo were not multiplex, party-coloured, nay multiplex in exact concordance with the first, as seemed almost impossible—?— Alas, in that case, one could not well predict the issue!— Seriously, it is a most handsome Book you have made; and I have nothing to return but thanks and again thanks. By the bye if you do print a small second edition of the First Portion, I might have had a small set of errata ready: but where are they? The Book only came into my hand here a few days ago; and I have been whipt from post to pillar without will of my own, without energy to form a will! The only glaring error I recollect at this moment is one somewhere in the second article on Jean Paul: “Osion” (I think, or some such thing) instead of “Orson”:3 it is not an original American error, but copied from the English; if the Printer get his eye upon it, let him rectify; if not, not, I deserve to have it stand against me there. Fraser's joy, should the Books prove either unbound, or multiplex in the right way, will be great and unalloyed; he calculates on selling all the copies very soon. He has begun reprinting Goethe's Wilhelm Meister too, the Apprenticeship and Travels under one; and hopes to remunerate himself for that by and by: whether there will then remain any small peculium for me is but uncertain; meanwhile I correct the press nothing doubting. One of these I call my best Translation, the other my worst; I have read that latter, the Apprenticeship, again in these weeks; not without surprise, disappointment, nay aversion here and there, yet on the whole with ever new esteem. I find I can pardon all things in a man except purblindness, falseness of vision,— for indeed does not that presuppose every other kind of falseness?

But let me hasten to say that the F. Revolution, 500 strong, for the New England market, is also, as Fraser advises, “to go to sea in three days.” It is bound in red cloth, gilt; a pretty book, James says; which he will sell for 25 shillings here;—nay the London brotherhood have “subscribed” for 180 at once, which he considers great work. I directed him to consign to Little and Brown in Boston,4 the property of the thing yours, with such phraseology and formalities as they use in those cases. I paid him for it yesterday (to save discount) £95; that is the whole cost to me, 20 or 30 pounds more than was once calculated on. Do the best with it you can, my friend; and never mind the result. If the thing fail, as is likely enough, we will simply quit that transport trade, and say experience must be paid for. The Title-page was “Boston: Charles C. Little and James Brown”; then, in a second line and smaller type, “London: James Fraser”; to which arrangement James made not the slightest objection, or indeed rather seemed to like it.— So much for trade matters: is it not enough? I declare I blush sometimes, and wonder where the good Emerson gets all his patience. We shall be thro' the affair one day, and find something better to speak about than dollars and pounds. And yet, as you well say, why not even of dollars? Ah, there are leaden-worded [bills] of exchange I have seen which have had an almost sacred character to me! Pauca verba [Few words].

Doubt not your new utterances are eagerly waited for here; above all things the “Book” is what I want to see.5 You might have told me what it was about. We shall see by and by. A man that has discerned somewhat, and knows it for himself, let him speak it out, and thank Heaven. I pray that they do not confuse you by praises; their blame will do no harm at all. Praise is sweet to all men; and yet alas, alas, if the light of one's own heart go out, bedimmed with poor vapours and sickly false glitterings and flashings, what profit is it! Happier in darkness, in all manner of mere outward darkness, misfortune and neglect, “so that thou canst endure,”6—which however one cannot to all lengths. God speed you, my Brother! I hope all good things of you; and wonder whether like Phoebus Apollo you are destined to be a youth forever.— Sterling will be right glad to hear your praises; not unmerited, for he is a man among millions that John of mine, tho' his perpetual-mobility wears me out at times. Did he ever write to you? His latest speculation was that he should and would; but I fancy it is among the clouds again. I hear from him the other day, out of Welsh Villages where he passed his boyhood, &c, all in a flow of “lyrical recognition,”7 hope, faith and sanguine unrest; I have even some thoughts of returning by Bristol (in a week or so, that must be), and seeing him. The dog has been reviewing me, he says, and it is coming out in the next Westminster! He hates terribly my doctrine of “Silence.”8

As to American [sic] and lecturing I cannot in this torpid condition venture to say one word. Really it is not impossible even for this winter; and yet lecturing is a thing I shall never grow to like; still less lionizing Martineau-ing: Ach Gott!9 My wife sends a thousand regards; she will never get across the ocean, you must come to her; she was almost dead, crossing from Liverpool hither, and declares she will never go to sea for any purpose whatsoever again. Never till next time! My good old Mother is here, my Brother John (home with his Duke from Italy); all send blessings and affection to you and yours. Adieu till I get to London. Yours ever

T. Carlyle